A guest review by Sirius
Summary: This was a sweet Christmas story about reunions with the loved ones and healing, but unfortunately the narrator was too similar to the narrators in other stories by this writer.
Thirteen years ago, Eli went on a summer trip with his mother and never came back. Now, existing in a new life as Jacob Somerville, he’s again running from fear and memories, only to end up where he started. As Jacob struggles to reconnect with his father and brothers, he realizes that his lover, Craig Zhao, was the only thing filling his empty heart and standing between him and ghosts of the past. It will take the power of love—from his family, from Craig, and from himself—for Jacob to see that his life truly is filled with the promise of what can be.
As Christmas story, this novella definitely worked for me. The main character reunites with his family after everything that could have gone did thirteen years ago when he went away with his mother and left his father and two brothers behind. Now a partially accidental meeting brings them back together. Eli has to stop running from his past and accept that he deserves the great things which already happened to him in his present, he also makes an attempt to reunite with his family.
I thought Calmes did a good job showing Eli’s pain and desire to run away from the bad things that happened to him, and how he was affected by his past and by his past decisions. In this respect it was emotional and touching. His vulnerability and pain shines through in the narrative. I also thought that the reactions that his father and brothers show when they meet Eli after so many years rang very true as the reactions of people who see a long lost loved one for a first time.
Unfortunately that is where the positive parts of the story ended for me. My biggest problem is that overall Eli’s characterization is so very similar to the characterization of the narrator in so many other books by this writer. Everybody loves Eli, even on first sight; Eli is stunningly handsome and seemingly perfect, but he thinks he is bland. He thinks he is a flawed person, but suffering from the consequences of a horrible trauma at least in my book does not count as a character flaw.
I have said above that the reactions of Eli’s brothers and father rang very true to me, but an example of his perfectness and how people just fall for him the moment they meet him is reaction of Eli’s stepmother — which he did not even know he had. How does a woman who never met this young man before fall in love with him so soon after being introduced? Isn’t that a little bit too sudden and abrupt? It made very little sense to me. I would agree that feelings of pity for him would perhaps be normal, especially after hearing his story, but claiming to love Eli almost right away? I did not buy it.
Also, I have to mention that while the reunion felt true, the long time period during which Eli’s family could not find him was not explained plausibly enough for me. And it did not help that while Eli and his boyfriend Craig have a great chemistry (I wish I have seen such chemistry in many other stories), Craig has no flaws either. Oh he says that Eli made him a better person, but we never see Craig acting as a flawed human being, so I was not sold on him not being perfect before meeting Eli.
Lastly, please also note that even though it is listed at 124 pages, for me it felt a shorter and faster read than this page length.
Recommended with reservations.